SOCHI, Russia — With a $51 billion price tag, the Russians seemingly spared no expense in making the Sochi Olympics happen.
You could say the same thing for Friday night’s opening ceremony, which featured a massive fireworks show, giant floats, armies of dancers and indoor snow guns.
Irina Rodnina, the Russian figure skater who has won three gold medals, and Vladislav Tretiak, the longtime hockey goalie for the Soviet Union who has also won three golds, ran out of the stadium and lit the cauldron.
At that moment, a fireworks show lit up the inside the stadium. Spectators filed out and watched an even bigger display shooting into the sky above the Olympic Park.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has staked his own reputation on the success of these games, officially opened the Olympics games as he stood at his seat in the stadium.
In a speech, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said Olympic sports should unite people, embrace diversity and build bridges “without any form of discrimination,” a statement that seemed to be pointed toward host Russia, which has drawn criticism for its anti-gay legislation.
While there have been some questions about the number of tickets that are selling, the 40,000-person-capacity Fisht Olympic Stadium seemed full. Spectators were given souvenir “medals” that flashed in synch in multiple colors around the stadium.
There was one prop malfunction — a snowflake failed to fully open into the fifth ring of the Olympic symbol — but with all of the serious worries about security and hotel rooms, the small miscue didn’t seem to matter.
Some 3,500 athletes walked into the center of the stadium from below for the parade of nations. The United States and Canada got big cheers, as did small but popular teams such as Jamaica. But the crowd truly erupted when host nation Russia, the last in the parade, entered the stadium.
Vail moguls skier Heidi Kloser, who fell in a preliminary run Thursday, suffering a torn ACL, a partially torn MCL and a broken femur, was still able to walk in the opening ceremonies, with the help of crutches.
“Excited that I will still get to walk!” Kloser tweeted before the ceremony.
The U.S. team sported its Ralph Lauren-design sweaters and white pants. Ski slopestyle athlete Bobby Brown, of Breckenridge, tweeted a photo of himself and teammate Joss Christensen posed in their sweaters with arms crossed.
“This is out of control,” he said.
“The Games have officially started,” tweeted Breckenridge ski slopestyle athlete Keri Herman with a photo of the Olympic flag being raised.
Ski and Snowboard Club Vail’s Aaron Blunck could be seen on the stadium’s big screen as he walked with his teammates.
“I have never felt so good to represent America than tonight at the Opening Ceremony,” he said later. “That was insane. Go USA!”
Aspen Olympic cross country skier Noah Hoffman will have his first Olympic event Sunday when he represents the United States in the skiathalon. That’s a 30-kilometer event with each racer skiing 15 kilometers in classic technique and then 15 kilometers in skate-ski technique.
Hoffman will race again Friday, Feb. 14, in the 15K classic event.